Friday, September 17, 2004

Religious Discrimination at Washburn

We Mormons are a little touchy about other people not accepting us as Christians despite the fact that we believe Christ is divine and able to redeem us from our sins. We are often erroneously kicked out of Bible study classes, because for some reason people think we can't appreciate Christ or the Bible properly if we don't view them in exactly the same way they do. It hurts to get kicked out of a Bible study, but we cannot act out our pain on others. This guy took it a bit too far:
...Washburn law student Daniel Arkell cited university policy and filed a charge of religious discrimination in April against the school's CLS [Christian Legal Society] chapter.

Arkell, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had led a CLS Bible study earlier in the semester, where, the legal group says, he advocated religious beliefs that were inconsistent with CLS' statement of faith. Leaders of the chapter subsequently told him he would not be allowed to lead CLS-sponsored Bible studies in the future.

According to the statement, Arkell in his complaint detailed his disagreement with all five points of the CLS statement of faith. Following a hearing, the Washburn Student Bar Association acquiesced to Arkell and revoked CLS' funding on Sept. 2.

"Washburn's action is an outrageous affront to religious freedom," stated Gregory S. Baylor, director of the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, located in Annandale, Va. "Washburn is trying to force CLS to sponsor a Bible study leader who explicitly rejects CLS' religious message."
I looked over the five points and a Mormon who was in line with official doctrine would only differ with the first one, which could be construed as asserting a belief in a trinity (Mormons believe the trinity is actually three separate beings). So I don't know why Arkell would have taken issue with all five points. Maybe, like many people, he mistook a choice of words that differs with his own to mean a doctrinal distinction.

But it doesn't matter how many points he took issue with, because he was wrong to complain about it. CLS made it very clear that they wanted their members to believe in certain things. If he didn't believe those things, he should have just kept on walking. And I mean "should" in more than just a moral sense-- Article of Faith 11 tells us that not only do Mormons "claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience," but we also "allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Arkell was wrong to insist on being allowed to lead CLS' Bible studies. He could easily have started his own Bible study group, or barring that, studied the Bible all by himself like devout Mormons do every single day.

Washburn University also made a poor choice in closing down the CLS for "discrimination." I'm sure other bloggers will address the wrongness of Washburn University's actions, but I wanted to address the Mormon angle.